A Conversation with George Giering of Giering Metal Finishing Inc.
George Giering is third-generation president of Giering Metal Finishing Inc., a leader in liquid coating, ecoating and powder coating.
George Giering Jr.
George Giering Jr. has deep roots in the finishing industry. His grandfather started in the industry in 1939, painting dental chairs out of his barn. Eventually, he expanded and Giering Metal Finishing Inc. was established in 1954. Giering’s father also took a turn as company president, often bringing young George to work with him. In 2001, George Giering Jr. found himself following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps.
PF: How did you personally first get involved in the industry?
GG: I was born into it… literally out of the womb into a paint drum. As a kid, I spent many Saturdays at work with my father getting into trouble — a factory is a boy’s dream. Probably not the safest playground, but the employees took turns guiding the “Giering boy” and disciplining when necessary. I’m still reminded to this day!
PF: What would you say are your company’s core values?
GG: Dedication and accountability to our customers’ work. Ingenuity in finding new, alternative ways to finish.
PF: Did you grow up wanting to be in the finishing industry or were there other aspirations?
GG: No, metal finishing was fun when I was a kid. But I pursued a degree in biomedical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with hopes of going into a medical field. Shortly after starting my new career, my father had two key managers retire and asked for my help. The company was always good to me, so it was time to pay it back. I still dabble in medicine in my spare time as a ski patroller to get my fix.
PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it? Does anything still apply to what you do today?
GG: My first paycheck came from Giering. I worked several summers washing windows, sweeping floors, painting walls, working on the lines and, finally, helping the maintenance department. Maintenance was my favorite position — every day was a different challenge. In 1995, I spread my wings in college, working part time at a liquor store in Troy, NY, and then at a CT wine distributor in the summer. Both certainly had their “perks” as a collegiate! Then, after college, I did chemical engineering at Unilever, where I quickly learned the difference between big and small businesses — key to my career!
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
GG: My parents both engrained in me the importance of working from the bottom up. My boss at Unilever stressed surrounding yourself with good people, at home and at work. And my godfather taught me to “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way!”
PF: What would you say are the most important traits of a good leader?
GG: Positive attitude, the ability to accept each employee’s personality, respectful criticism and enlightening communication.
PF: Who have you learned the most from?
GG: My family; I am indebted to my parents for my work ethic, personality and life. I owe my success to my wife (and kids), providing a shoulder to cry on and pat on the back at times. My immediate family, while they nursed me back to life after my near-death accident. My in-laws for keeping me in check. And I even learned the hard way from a family member to always take care of the customer!
PF: What motivates you and how do you inspire your team?
GG: My near-death experience wakes me up every day, demanding “what will you do today with your extra day of life?” As for my team, I would hope it is my dedication to accuracy and perfection that motivates them to excel with me…or maybe it’s their year-end bonuses.
PF: What do you think are important things for coaters and finishers to do in order to stay competitive in the industry?
GG: Know your strengths and your competitors’. Take chances in your future: invest in quality employees and upgrade your equipment.
PF: What do you see as some of your biggest challenges in the coming year?
GG: Economic recovery is on everyone’s radar after COVID19. Health insurance costs (post-COVID19) will be a strong second, with no tangible cost solution in sight. Keeping a firm handle on our labor costs because we depend so much on our employees, especially now.
PF: What organization or company, aside from your own, do you most admire?
GG: National Manufacturing Association (NMA) and the Connecticut Business Industry Association (CBIA) are our crutches for business solutions, providing priceless, reliable input. Mount Snow Ski Patrol (VT), National Ski Patrol and Mothers Against Drunk Driving have gone to the outer limits to make an impression on me, my family, my friends and my employees.
PF: Describe a business decision you made that had a lasting impact (good or bad).
GG: Four years ago, I hired a business mentor on a whim. I needed to see the forest through the trees and pick some low-lying fruit. There is nothing more frustrating than hearing, and realizing, your shortcomings; we all have them. It takes proper information to assess them and significant energy to correct them. My mentor has yet to give me bad advice. I sincerely appreciate the relationship we have, and I hope my employees do, too.
PF: What do you see as the biggest management myth?
GG: “Managers don’t carry their weight.” That’s because much of what they do is not seen and doesn’t produce a physical product. Also, there’s a big difference between a “nice manager” and an “honest and fair manager.” Being nice does not necessarily get the job done — being honest and fair does!
PF: What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?
GG: Stay focused, never give up, delegate more, don’t sweat the small stuff and give yourself a break.
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